An interview with Erin Larkin
We meet one of Australia’s brightest wine voices.
Erin is a highly regarded wine writer, judge, regional taster for the Halliday Wine Companion and a regular contributor to the Halliday Wine Companion Magazine.
Erin also loves Standish wines –
great photo of Dan and Erin post sampling the 2019s…
Part 1: Let’s talk vintage with Kym, Steve, Maryann and Rita…
As the hustle and bustle of the harvest season draws to a close, we asked our exclusive winemakers to spare a few minutes to provide an overview of the 2021 vintage. As always we’ve received some fabulous responses, detailing not only the technical side of the vintage but also an insight into how the winemakers, their families and their businesses have fared during the past twelve months.
Kym Teusner, Winemaker and Proprietor of Utopos
Wow! What a bittersweet 24 months it has been! There’s the obvious challenges, frustrations, fears and sadness bought on by the Coronavirus pandemic that the entire world is still grappling with. We all feel very fortunate, however, here in Australia. With our geographical isolation making it somewhat easier for our government to control we have really felt minimal impact compared to the rest of the world and we go about our daily lives with relatively minimal disruption. The motorsport tracks were still open and they became my pressure relief valve, hahaha. Interestingly, it could be said that the pandemic was a major catalyst in fuelling a political bushfire between Australia and her largest trading partner which seemingly continues to burn out of control. This has added to the daily uncertainties of a large percentage of our population as we all go about our lives trying to find a path through the chaos that has been 2021. On a positive note from our personal perspective, however, business has remained good. Despite our entire industry losing a major export trading partner and a large percentage of our customers across the globe being forced to close their doors, it seems that we have all continued to relax with a glass of wine at home rather than in a restaurant or bar. Perhaps even enabling us to trade up a level and treat ourselves to a little brightness in the grey. Like everyone, we’ve had to reassess our business models and work out how best to continue serving our customers but hey, change keeps us alert and bright.
From a viticulture and winemaking perspective, 2021 has been nothing but sweet! We were all very nervous given the last two, challenge filled and low yielding vintages but as it turned out there was no need for nervousness at all. Mother nature was very kind. I’d have to go as far as to say one of the most perfect seasons that I have experienced in my 20 year career! Farmers can always find something to complain about though, so in the spirit of keeping it real, I guess that we could’ve used a touch more rain early in the season but I’m really trying hard to find a complaint if this is the only one. Reasonable rainfalls through winter led into a very moderate spring and almost perfect
flowering conditions – very few of our recent challenges – no extreme heat waves, no gale force winds. Nice.
Being quite dry, however, does bring with it elevated frost risk due to the clear skies and resultant cold nights. This risk kept us all on edge right through December and January, when we are normally starting to relax from November onwards. With only a few small frost events most of the Barossa sailed through unscathed into a ripening period of warm days and cool nights that allowed long, slow and even ripening. Flavours came on at lower potential alcohol levels than I’ve ever seen before and we were harvesting fruit with extraordinary balance of chemistry and flavour. This balance and general vine happiness made itself apparent in the ferments as well, with the fermentations progressing smoothly and cleanly through to complete dryness and malolactic fermentations currently showing the same energy. Yields across the valley were just on long term average, which in terms of Utopos, means about one tonne per acre…. The wines are fresh, bright and clean with deep vibrant colour, firm but not overbearing tannin and amazing intensity of flavour. All in all a pretty exciting season that I look forward to guiding through to being in your hands.
Looking back to 2020 we were dealing with the continuing drought conditions which led to a meagre .75 tonnes per acre yield across the Utopos vineyard and has obviously translated into amazingly concentrated wines. The biggest challenge of 2020 wasn’t the drought, however. It was the fires. They were burning throughout the state and brought with them the very sinister risk of smoke taint that can show itself in the short or longer term. I am happy to report that we have had all of our wines tested by the Australian Wine Research Institute and they are all smoke taint free. No risk of it raising its head now or in the future. The wines show absolute typicity of the site, highlighting its tremendous consistency from vintage to vintage. They have a few more months of rest in barrel before we will start thinking about getting them ready for their transition to their final vessel.
"No wonder grapes from this hallowed vineyard found their way into Penfolds Bin 707"
Utopos Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
99 Points - Stuart McCloskey “This is blessed with an incredibly intense, powerful nose, which and after a few hours in a decanter unveils the sweetest of mineral soaked fruits (blackberries, boysenberries, mulberry and a compote edge to the blueberry). There’s an exotic sweetness to the aromatic spices which flow with star anise and candied violets. Graphite in profusion along with black olive tapenade, salinity and wafts of camphor and liquorice. The palate is equally intense and powerful, and yet there is a sense of wonderful definition and heavenly focus that marks it out differently from many young Aussie Cabernets. This is the creamiest, richest and certainly the most voluminous wine in the 2019 Utopos collection which unfolds with layer upon layer of the most luxurious silky fruits. Wonderfully structured too. The tannins are velvety, and I love the freshness which adds brightness to the mouthfeel. I detect a little minerality on the epically long finish. No wonder grapes from this hallowed vineyard found their way into Penfolds Bin 707. This cannot fail to impress and will comfortably cellar for 15-20 years. Simply magnificent. Decant for 4-6 hours. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
98+ - 99+ Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz “Wonderful deep colour. The perfume is superbly concentrated with combinations of red and black fruit, liquorice and mint. The tension is simply incredible – you’ll find supple sweetness, rich fruit, coolness of the iron, sweet spices, as well as notes of herbs and flowers. Dark fruity chocolate also comes to mind. Black berries and rich cherry liqueur open the palate which is just as multi-dimensional and layered as the perfume. What a magnificent wine. I think this has the edge for me in the Utopos line up at this stage and I’m dying to see how it develops. No rush though, as this is a real beauty even in its youth. You could probably write a book on all its flavours and aromatic nuances but I will step back and allow you to discover this sensational wine for yourself. Decant, sniff and sip over a long, relaxing evening. Sampled over several hours on the first and second day after opening, using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”.
** Available for delivery from End June 2021 **
Available In Bond @
£165.00 per case of 6
Utopos Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Blend 2019
Created exclusively for Vinorium customers
98 – 98+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “And now to the most structured of the trio, which is not a negative. The bouquet is brooding to put it mildly and needs aeration (4-6 hours minimum) to reveal its glorious aromatics. Savoury at first with a marine / kelp character which I am immensely fond of. Intensely mineral – the black fruits are mineral soaked too. A little liquorice creeps in which compliments the cold iron ore character marvellously. Scorched earth and blueberry compote on the finish. Tightly wound, focused, providing a firm grip with not a single hair out of place is the best way to describe the intellect of this wine. The flavours offer an intriguing assortment from Chinese five spice, a soupçon of clove, anise, cinnamon bark infused with damson, plum and black raspberry – quite delectable when you bring the collection together. The mineral rich finish is a dream. Unquestionably, this is a multi-layered, multidimensional masterpiece that really needs time in the bottle to fully develop (I suggest 5-10 years minimum, but it does drink rather well today if you heed the decanting notice). This is just superb with a bright and very long life ahead. I am looking forward to re-sampling in the next 6-12 months as I am conscious this has just been bottled and endured a long journey to our tasting room – my ‘opening’ score reflects this fact. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
98+ Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz “The perfume is deep and evocative offering an alluring mixture of cherries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, cranberries, aromatic spice mix and plenty of minerals. There is a gentle sweetness on entry before the wine expands and reveals supple textures flowing with perfectly judged weight. I love the way it straddles between the wonderful characteristics of each variety, marrying all nuances beautifully. In fact, I kept coming back to my tasting notes over a few hours to adjust them with the newly emerging aromas and flavours, but it’s too early to give them the justice they deserve. Above all, simply sit back and allow the wine to blossom in the glass, decanter or indeed the cellar, then enjoy the journey. Sampled over several hours on the first and second day after opening, using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”.
** Available for delivery from End June 2021 **
Available In Bond @
£165.00 per case of 6
Utopos Mataro Shiraz Grenache 2019
98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “The 2019 blend is comprised of 50% Mataro, 35% Shiraz and 15% Grenache. The bouquet is a colossal, brooding skyscraper which needs coaxing with aeration (I suggest decanting for 6-8 hours). Sweet spices, blue and blackberry liqueur, asphalt, baked earth, bitter chocolate, liquorice, lavender and a heavenly twists of blood orange on the finish. The palate could not be any different; lithe, agile, elegant and full of freshness – the spine of acidity is a masterstroke and keeps the palate salivating. The fruit is juicy and the flavours open up like a peacock’s tail. Mineral-laced blueberry compote, floral pastille, lavender, some warmth and depth from black liquorice. Perhaps some sweet cherry on the finish too – white pepper after minutes. The tannins are supple and add the faintest of grip. This is such a fascinating wine, one which plays a hedonistic bouquet off against a palate which is in the hands of an angel. Drinking now (decant for 6+ hours) and will age gracefully over the coming ten or more years. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.” Sampled 26.02.21.
97-99 Points - Stuart McCloskey “The 2019 blend is comprised of 50% Mataro, 35% Shiraz and 15% Grenache and was decanted for 24 hours (sealed overnight). The magic that surrounds the 2019 Shiraz vintage has been fever pitch, with some of our producers declaring the vintage as tiny but simply perfect. The addition of 35% Shiraz provides wonderful colour to the wine (deep black moving to beetroot on the rim). The bouquet has amplified from the ’18. The aromatic elixir is enormous in scale. Wild autumn hedgerow drenched in mixed berries, warming spices, spiced cherries, kirsch, pastille, warm Christmas cake, tar and finished with white pepper. The fruit saturates the palate, but it does require 3-5 years before unleashing its full throttle glory. The concentration is superb with bright red fruit tones providing lift, energy and a lovely freshness – minerals and spices too. The best and most complete Aussie MSG I have sampled to date. Exuberant and hypnotic drinking. While this can be enjoyed now (minimum of 8-12 hours of decanting) this is really one for the cellar (10-20 years).” Sampled August 2020
96-98 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Both MSG wines were sampled over the course of two days with the decanter sealed tightly overnight. They opened up beautifully and showed best on the second day. A touch more exuberance on the nose in the 2019 MSG. The composition here is 50% Mataro, 35% Shiraz and 15% Grenache. Lush fruit with juicy cherries and blueberries leading the way with a whiff of vanilla and warm earth. The palate bursts with juicy berries coupled with a delicious underline of minerality. Utterly delicious, so much so I had to refill before finishing the tasting note. The wine travels across the palate seamlessly and with perfect weight. The structure is impressive and will merit 10+ years of cellaring." Sampled August 2020
** Available for delivery from End June 2021 **
Available In Bond @
£165.00 per case of 6
98 – 98+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “Monolithic and will be revered by those seeking unadulterated hedonism. Wow, so explosively rich – I was left speechless after my first sip. Anyhow, I am jumping the gun and must discuss the bouquet which provides a completely different aspect. Brooding, incredibly dense but there’s either a coyness or reticence which I am struggling to put my finger on. Warmed oyster shell, sea kelp, warm earth, graphite and a deep sense of mineralité. Totally fascinating and a wine which will develop an unfathomable number of aromas if you have the endurance to enjoy a glass over 24 hours. The palate is full-bodied, unpretentious, explosive, very rich, firm with taut grip from fine grained tannins (very much required to keep a handle on the ripe, dense fruit which could run amok without some control). Today, this provides the merest of glimpses into the incredible depth of flavours. The ripe, black fruits are multi-layered and drench the palate with oodles of wild blueberry compote, the sweetest of raspberry along with mulberry, sloe and damson. To say the finish is epically long would be an understatement, the same applies to the enriching perfume which keeps evolving. As I stated at the beginning – this is opulently hedonistic, yet it provides an intellectual fragrance (so savoury and very ‘marine’ against a bing-bang-bosh of excessively ripe fruit). This is simply magnificent but does need time in the cellar to come together. Again, this is another 2019 Utopos which I look forward to re-evaluating in 6 months. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
98-99 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz “Even after 24 hours in a decanter (sealed overnight), the perfume is super vibrant and ultra-concentrated. Deeply mineral with iron ore, tons of fruit and fragrant spices. It is difficult to pin down each and every flavour which tantalises the taste buds. The sheer power and tension is impressive as it is not over the top at all and it holds together with much confidence and composure. This is clearly a very young wine, but you must admire how complete it is today. Many iconic wines require years, sometimes decades to offer a pleasurable drinking experience and reveal their beauty. This is different, deeply impressive and it will certainly be wonderful to watch its progress. Sampled over several hours on the first and second day after opening, using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”.
** Available for delivery from End June 2021 **
Available In Bond @
£165.00 per case of 6
98++ Points - Stuart McCloskey - “As before, the nose is more concentrated than the 2017 – quite considerably and hasn’t changed from the profusion of violets, blackberry, blueberry compote, Indian ink, asphalt. Cooling graphite and cold steel which I love. Mint is emerging with savoury bay leaf. I detect some saltiness / salinity on the finish which is another big tick. The palate has picked up the pace against the 2017 (who said there is no vintage variation in Australia!). Unlike many of Australia’s cult wines (RunRig is a perfect example), this is not overdone, cooked or out of sorts. This is rich, luxurious and delivers an unstoppable wave of ripe blue and black fruits. Almost exotic. The cooling feel to the fruit is a masterstroke as is the whisper of freshness and filigree tannins. Amazingly balanced, extremely long and I did not spit a drop (excuse any typos). A monumental, powerfully structured wine with the potential to age for decades. Decant for 4-6 hours. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.” Sampled 25.02.2021
99 Points - Stuart McCloskey “This is simply off the charts in terms of aromatic concentration. Save for the Standish collection, this is as concentrated as it gets. The bouquet is brooding and invites you in with an intense and warming hug filled with spiced dark fruits, wonderful florals (more so than the 2017), violets, confit blue and blackberry, graphite, Indian ink, asphalt – I could quite honestly keep going! The palate is drenched with sweet, ripe black fruits underpinned with a little tart berry quality which contrasts perfectly. Bitter notes of coffee and chocolate, crushed redcurrant, wood smoke, and that tell-tale floral / blackberry pastille. The concentration is extraordinary and I love the chew from the tannins which is very much needed. There’s lots of sweet spiced fruit too and the sense of symmetry is beguiling. In some ways, it possesses the same DNA found in the ’18 Standish collection. Yet another ‘as good as it gets and should be north of fifty-quid.’ I should award 100 points… Decant for 4-6 hours. This will live for 20-30 years and I imagine will be at its best around 2040.” Sampled August 2020
98-99 Points - Magda Sienkiewicz "Sampled after 4 hours of decanting. The perfume is truly opulent and incredibly inviting. The intense nose bursts with dark plums and plentiful berries (cranberry, blackberry and more), cassis liqueur, ink with a whiff of liquorice, dried herbs and a gentle floral lift. In fact, it is so complex that you will discover something new each each time you go back to it. The palate is lavish and impressively complete for such a young wine. Layers of fruit wash across my palate with a delectable sweet entry which later transforms to a savoury edge. A lick of graphite adds to the immense depth of this wine and the length is truly breathtaking. It’s incredible how a wine of such scale remains utterly unctuous without losing its composure. Utterly magnificent today, it will evolve beautifully for decades, but only if you have unyielding levels of patience." Sampled August 2020
Available In Bond @
£165.00 per case of 6
98++ Points - Stuart McCloskey “A remarkable wine with ribbons of silky tannins weaving magic amongst the lakes of ripe, blue and black fruit. In every sense, it is perfectly formed. The bouquet provides the same ‘goosebump’ moment, as if I were sampling for the first time. There’s little change from violets, liquorice stick, blackberry pastille, cola, Indian ink and cold iron – warm earth emerges with more aeration. The floral character has heightened and there’s a marine character – white pepper on the finish too. Texturally, there’s a sense of wonder to this wine. The fruit sails effortless across the palate – rich but far from confected. There’s an earthiness from the tannins which grounds the fruit component. The balance is impeccable. I previously mentioned the wine as being a ‘skyscraper’ – I have changed this view. Yes, it is substantial but it is far from being monolithic. As anticipated, the flavours match those found on the nose with violets, blackberry pastille and flowers leading the way on what is a wondrous journey. Sweet spices, a core of juicy acidity and the grip of silky, earthy tannins are a perfect marriage. There’s an overriding sense of gracefulness which did not show last year. The equilibrium is utterly captivating and the precision on point. A brilliant wine. Decant for 4-6 hours. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware. Drinking now (quite amazingly) to 2040.” Sampled 25.02.2021.
98-99 Points - Stuart McCloskey “The integration of fruit, acid, tannin and oak is amazing especially considering the wine is so young. It needs time in a decanter (4-6 hours, perhaps longer) to unlock the bouquet which unfurls with floral notes, violets, blackberry pastille, cola, Indian ink, iron and mineral driven earthy aromas too. The combination of power and finesse is bewitching as is the densely packed fruit which weaves magic on my palate. The fruit is rich, but impeccably balanced. Expansive whilst retaining seamlessness. A skyscraper but one which offers agility. A depth which is already impressive yet has a very long way to go. The flavours match those found on the nose with violets, blackberry pastille and flowers leading. Sweet spices, a core of juicy acidity and the grip of silky tannins compliment. There is no end to this wine – it just keeps giving. I am genuinely left speechless considering the price for this bottle. This is my second bottle and my notes are equal. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware. Drink now (you must decant) and this will certainly get better and better over the coming 10-20 years. I should award 100 points as I have never sampled a wine this good, at this price level however, and wrongly so, I am reluctant for this one reason.” Sampled August 2020.
99 + Points - Magda Sienkiewicz "Sampled after 4 hours of decanting. The perfume oozing from the glass immediately stops you in your tracks. Clearly you are in presence of an extraordinary wine. Predominantly Shiraz with a dash of Mataro (10%), the nose is super-expressive with a vast array of fruit, blueberry liqueur and intoxicating notes of iron, pen ink, lead pencil, graphite, warm earth and violets. The palate is extremely juicy and mirrors the rich aromas in a impressive harmony. Incredibly complex, yet you can’t escape the sense of elegance and polish to the minute detail. Such a compelling wine of soaring quality and allure. Mesmerising and breathtaking, this wine takes a firm place in my top 5 Shiraz wines of all time. I can’t resist an extra plus for extraordinary value." Sampled August 2020.
Available In Bond @
£165.00 per case of 6
Rita & Bob Richter, Founders and Proprietors of Grey Sands
We did not pick fruit for our label in 2020 but sold some fruit. This was the second vintage in the last two decades that we chose not to make wine. The last ‘bad’ vintage was 2011. The problems for us in 2020 were: Firstly, a very windy spring followed by a dry summer. Meaning that without irrigation the vines’ growth was stunted, with shoots not reaching the top wire reducing the leaf area to produce sugars. This was then followed by a very wet autumn that delivered the equivalent of a very generous winter rainfall. This was too late to create growth but induced disease and delayed ripening. Although we netted the fruit in the hope of getting ‘over the line’ for sugar levels, it never got there for our standards.
This vintage (2021) had generous spring and summer rainfall which has rebuilt the vines but the summer temperatures were modest and veraison (colour change in the grapes) was later than average. Autumn has been dry and mainly warm. Our new blocks of Carménère, Cabernet Franc and Lagrein were planted last winter and have established well under these conditions. As our vine varieties are weighted toward mid and late season ripening, we are often harvesting the bulk of our fruit well after most vineyards in Tassie have wrapped up. So we often have a different view on a vintage to other vineyards.
We had a bit of a nightmare start to harvest this year… The first variety to be picked was the Pinot Noir, a variety which every Tasmanian vineyard grows. Due to Covid, the number of ‘internationals’ in Tasmania for the harvest this year was very low. Sadly, most local Tasmanians aren’t interested in picking fruit! The fruit from the Pinot Noir clones that have larger berries is what we use for our ‘Blanc de Noir,’ with the remaining clones used for Pinot Noir. We usually pick all the Pinot Noir fruit in one day but we need 16 pickers.
The night before the pick I had only six names! Bob decided we would be able to pick the fruit for the Blanc de Noir in one pick and the remainder in a second pick. Unfortunately, two of the six ‘names’ never turned up and didn’t answer phone calls… that left just four! One then left at 12.15 due to a family problem and we were down to three. Then another young lady just up and left leaving just two pickers with Bob and I. In the end we had to pick the fruit on three separate days, sending fruit to the winery for processing each time.
Thankfully, all other vineyards finished picking that week, so we then had a group of excellent pickers who have picked for us each time and will probably stay on to help with the winter work.
We harvested our last fruit today and have decided to make a Rosé from the Shiraz and the other late varieties that usually make up our Romanesque blend, since the volume of each variety was too low to make our usual wines. This should be a very interesting wine! Our yields were down very much because of the 2020 vintage (flowers and bunches are set in the buds created in the previous vintage). So, if yield is an indicator of quality, then it may be promising, albeit with lower alcohol levels than usual.
We have a new winemaker this year, joining us after 15 years with the Bay of Fires winemaking team. Our new winemaker is Matthias Utzinger who has just built a new winery in the Tamar valley. Matthias is Swiss with considerable winemaking experience and a wine making philosophy in step with my own. Matthias has established a vineyard overlooking the Tamar River on a steep slope below Grindelwald. Utzinger will be a name to watch in the near future.
I look forward to trying the new wines in a few weeks to make our first assessment of the new wines.
Rita & Bob
"one of the most enjoyable Malbecs I have sampled for a long time with hidden power and concentration"
97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey "My first Tassie Malbec and what a fabulous debut. The bouquet is deeply serious with savoury and oceanic aromatics from sea kelp, oyster shell (an overwhelming sense of marine) leading to pen ink and violet. There is lovely ripeness and brisk acidity, translating into a powerful but fresh wine. There is some fruit opulence with deep plum leading to an assortment of black fruits. There’s a little fresh pencil shaving, violet, blueberry and a wealth of minerals… It's compact in stature, concentrated and balanced perfectly. Tannins in abundance, but these are ripe and work wonders with the fruit. To summarise, one of the most enjoyable Malbecs I have sampled for a long time with hidden power and concentration. The flavours last forever and I love the salinity on the finish. A serious Malbec which will last 10-15 years in the cellar. Decant for 2-4 hours and best served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”
98+ Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz "I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Tasmanian Malbec, so you could say it’s easy to exceed expectations. However, this wine is truly special and it does remind me a little of The Schubert Theorem from Dan Standish, which is quite an accolade. The perfume is highly seductive and oozes with blackberries, blueberries, violets, sage and those beautiful, evocative notes of warm minerals, oyster shell and seaweed. Just wonderful. The palate follows suit with lovely concentration and savoury texture. What a delight, I’m utterly amazed. Superb today with 5-6 hours of decanting. Stash away a case or two as well, as this will provide much pleasure in the next 10-15+ years. Outstanding New World Malbec which should comfortably take its well deserved place amongst some top world labels. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware following 6 hours of decanting."
"Without any doubt, the best new world Pinot Gris to have passed my lips – a dazzling triumph"
Grey Sands Pinot Gris 2018
98+ Stuart McCloskey “Without any doubt, the best new world Pinot Gris to have passed my lips – a dazzling triumph. The nose is wonderful and coaxes you in with spiced pear, banana bread, apricot preserve and crammed with minerals. Texturally this is sublime, the palate feel is sensual – almost elixir with its opulence. There’s impressive density and stunning overall balance. There is bags of personality on display along with countless amounts of white and yellow stone fruits. Spiced pear, citrus and a deep core of minerals infuse in perfect harmony. It is easier to appreciate this as wine today however, its evolution over the next 10-15 years is going to be remarkable. Today, complexity and clarity are evident, but they have just been born. Purchase a case for the cellar and watch this extraordinary wine flourish. This would pair wonderfully with oysters, langoustine, crab and I believe it would be the perfect white wine to serve with a Christmas goose… Do not overchill and best served with a smile and Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
98++ Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "The perfume strikes with complexity and elegant fullness. Beautifully lush and expressive with an abundance of spiced fruit at the fore and a richly mineral background. Do not serve too cold otherwise you will miss out on the aromatic richness. The unctuous ripeness of the fruit gives a lovely sweet entry on the palate. The structure seems endless as the wine expands and broadens to an extraordinary level. Mesmerising complexity and the textural depth is truly impressive. A world class Pinot Gris and certainly the best I have had for a very long time. It’s a serious wine and it requires to be treated as such. Please decant. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware."
Grey Sands Pinot Blanc 2018
97 Points - Stuart McCloskey “Unfurling is the perfect word to describe how the bouquet develops with each passing sniff. A little aeration and served at the correct temperature (fridge cold is too cold) is the key to unravelling the complex bouquet. More orchard fruits (perhaps a little oxidised apple). Pear both fresh and in ‘drop’ form exudes with a deep core of crushed minerals – slate and chalk dominate. The style and flavours are crystal clear, mouth-wateringly juicy and super fresh. More orchard fruits develop together with white flowers and a spine of chalk. On the whole, this is an elegant and beautifully aromatic wine which demands time in the cellar. The palate is pure and skilfully orchestrated. A great wine in development. My score reflects the need for more bottle age – another point is sure to come in 3-5 years. Drinking now to 2030+. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
Grey Sands Blanc de Noir 2019
97+ Stuart McCloskey “100% Pinot Noir. The bouquet is ripe, highly elegant and defined by orchard fruits underpinned with subtle baking spices and the slightest hint of marzipan. The palate oozes with the same sensual charm as the Pinot Gris – just with a touch more grip on the finish. There’s a generous core of orchard fruit, which reminds me of my neighbour. My home adjoins a large orchard, and this reminds me of my journey home after taking a long walk around the nature reserve – I would help myself to a dew-drenched apple that satisfies my thirst with a little puckering grip. The acidity is racy, it’s super bright with a little chalk / mineral finish. The finish is long and mouth-watering. Of course, very much an infant and will be divine over the decade to come. Simply, a beautiful creation. This may form a natural deposit. Stand upright for approx. 30 mins before pouring and pour the last glass carefully… Do not overchill. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
Maryann Egan, second generation Winemaker at Wantirna Estate
The 2021 was a stunning vintage - you’ll hear this time and time again from Victorian producers. To start with we didn’t have a crazy hot summer - in fact there were many beach-goers who were complaining. But a ‘not too hot’ summer is most welcome for grape growers - especially for Pinot Noir growers. The weather in late 2020 had been reasonably wet, just enough to give us a constant top up to the soil. We don’t irrigate our vines so although we have very deep root structures, the dry months can knock a few leaves off the vines.
The mild weather meant that the grapes ripened consistently, without spikes of hot weather where in fact the vines shut down and don’t physiologically ripen. So each sunny, mild day saw the ripeness gradually increase. This gentle ripening meant that as the sugar levels increased, the acids too were retained so the wines have great acid structure.
We started harvest with our Chardonnay, whilst it tested on the lower end of ripeness, the flavours were all there and we wanted to pick some of the grapes at this level. Then we left the rest of the fruit for another week to get some different flavours. Next came three separate picks of the Pinot Noir. Despite our tiny vineyard, we have 3 distinctive blocks of Pinot Noir - one is fruity, another quite structured and the third carries a fragrance and perfume. Having farmed the land here for 50 years, we’ve come to know the different times to pick the different blocks and what we can expect from them.
One of the concerns this year on the farms of Australia was the potential lack of casual workers. The Covid restrictions meant that there were very few backpackers and no steady arrivals of Pacific Islanders who have been important to the bigger vineyards’ workforce. For us though, since we are small, we deliberately only do short, early morning picks, three to four hours. So the usual mixture of our girls’ uni-student friends and the odd interested restauranteur meant that we were able to find a workforce.
And whilst it is a busy time, I love being out in the vineyard with old and new friends, chatting whilst we snip.
Our winemaking is very focussed on the vineyard. We tend to harvest in small batches, picking only the part of the vineyard that we think is ready. All grapes are hand harvested and whilst this requires more staff than a machine harvester, it gives us great flexibility. We can just pick exactly when we’d like, rather than the whole lot when the contractor has some time to squeeze us in. We harvest at first light so the grapes don’t get too hot, in fact this too gives us the chance to do some cool maceration of the grapes without requiring the use of refrigeration.
As for the 2020 wines, we bottled them straight after this year’s vintage - so the last of the grapes had been picked and about 2 weeks later the big bottling and packaging truck backs itself in and the wines are sent off to bottle. Sadly, incredibly sadly we made tiny amounts of wine - only about 20-30% of our usual volume. The story is the same across all of Victoria. We’d had two very wet Springs the previous years, and the buds just didn’t have many bunches inside them, and then the wet and windy flowering weather gave us very few and very small bunches. So life as a farmer can be cruel.
As we head into the middle of 2021 the most common thing everyone says is how our lives all drifted past in 2020. Whilst some claim that Melbourne had one of the toughest lockdowns in the world, we know that everywhere has been extremely challenging. As a country we have at the moment an almost normal life, with football stadiums filled to 85% capacity and restaurants back open. However, we aren’t allowed to travel out of the country to anywhere except New Zealand, and I can’t see that changing until 2022. Hopefully as the world gets the vaccine, travel will again be allowed and my usual post-vintage May trip will be back on the agenda in 2022!
Wantirna Estate Amelia Cabernet Merlot 2019
97+ - 98+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “This is not powerful per se – more ethereal, terroir driven and as close to a left bank Bordeaux I have ever sampled from Australia. The wine needs coaxing from the glass - 4-hours in a decanter does the trick and delivers an extraordinary sense of minéralité. Supremely focused with tightly coiled fruit. Time being the only key to unlock its full potential. Violets aplenty which work wonderfully, along with brooding, dark fruits, laced with fine herbs, bay, graphite, minerals and sea salt. The balance is astonishing, the flavours slowly creep up on you. A wine which is utterly effortless, so pure and so precise. Today, this wine exudes intellect and detail – the best years are yet to come. Nonetheless, it is outstanding in its youth, but will be close to perfection in its prime (10 years in my opinion). In short, a very special wine which must be served with consideration and the mood to match. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
98+ Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Classical aromas of currants, juicy cherries, dark chocolate, fresh bay leaf and undergrowth. Notes of roasted coffee emerge with aeration, which adds to the allure. Lots of ripeness and confidence presented in a controlled and elegant manner. A self-assured and very fine perfume. The palate follows suit and builds beautifully with trademark cassis, cedar spice and savoury tannins. Wantirna provides an utterly compelling and powerful Bordeaux blend with exemplary finesse. Much of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are part of the original 1963 plantings with small additions of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. There is much class on show with captivating generosity and layers of texture which will provide amazing drinking over the next 10-15 years or more. Nevertheless, and as with any great wine, it drinks beautifully today with 3-4 hours of decanting. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware."
Sarah Ahmed - thewinedetective.co.uk "The vineyard is not only unusual in location. It is also unusual because the original 1963 plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are a true field blend. Petit Verdot joined the party in the 1989. The vines are dry grown on clay soils. The blend typically comprises 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. The wine is fermented in cement tanks, then aged in French oak. Ever so fragrant and enticing, a waft of mint, tea tree and twiggy tinder-box with fresh blackcurrant whisks you off to Australia. Notes which follow through in the mouth, together with juicy blackberry, mulberry and blueberry. Mouth-watering savoury tomato paste and balsamic nuances with earthy puy lentils and gravelly minerality pull you in. Fleet of foot, fresh, persistent acidity and soft, seamless tannins make for an elegant, medium-bodied palate. With lovely intensity and flow, it drank beautifully over three days. On song, this is a characterful, class act. If you can resist it, the Egans expect Amelia to age for 15 years or more. Sure enough, when I visited in 2018, the 2009 vintage was just starting to develop tertiary notes."
Wantirna Estate Lily Pinot Noir 2018
97-98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “The bouquet is a captivating mélange of wild berries, raspberries, wild strawberry, rose petal, orange rind with subtle and savoury nuances developing in the background. The tannins are silken and gently clutch to the fruit which glide effortlessly across the palate. Wild berry flavours fan out with a positive undercurrent of sorbet-like blood orange which I love. Clearly, Wantirna style centres on femininity, charm and a gracefulness without losing sight of the fruit or its place. Spectacularly harmonious with a long, mineral laced finished. Lily is just beginning her journey and will provide so much drinking pleasure over the coming 10-15 years. I am looking forward to resampling in a year or so. Decant for 1-2 hours and ideally serve using Zalto Burgundy glassware.”
97-98 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "I will begin by saying – please, please decant these wines. I came back to my glass of Lily’s Pinot Noir after 3 hours and it unfurled beautifully. The perfume is simply wonderful displaying an array of sweet and savoury red berries, citrus and wild flowers. The palate has great depth and a fantastic weight – not light, not heavy, but perfectly delicious. Cascading berries are supported with an effortless structure which flows with much grace. The flavours melt away softly but they do not fade. A beautiful, beautiful wine. Plenty of class and elegance without turning lean. Superb! Sampled using Zalto Burgundy Glass following 3 hours of decanting."
"wave after wave of seductive buttered citrus fruit underpinned with razor sharp acidity...
For Burgundy purists or those seeking something special"
Wantirna Estate Isabella Chardonnay 2019
98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “Time in the glass is the great benefactor (mine was left for an hour) resulting in a bouquet that blossoms and comes alive with buttered lemon, citrus peel, quartz, salty sea spray and chalk – vibrant and captivating. The palate delivers wave after wave of seductive buttered citrus fruit underpinned with razor sharp acidity. The density and palate feel are truly remarkable for such a young wine. I fear you would miss the amplitude, sheen, depth and glossiness if poured straight from the fridge (word to the wise). Yet another suave, seamless and immensely pleasing wine which will only get better over the next 10+ years. For Burgundy purists or those seeking something special, but do not want to part with £100 – this is the one for you. Compelling drinking. Decant for an hour and serve using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
97-98 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz “Another superb and chic offering from Wantirna. Time in a glass / decanter and preferably for an hour will work wonders. With aeration, the perfume becomes more expressive and unfolds with an abundance of fruit, sweet buttered pastry, oyster shell and citrusy freshness. The palate feel is equally compelling. This is a Chardonnay which exudes confidence (whilst retaining its modesty), it is generous and beautifully balanced. One of my ‘new’ favourites. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware following 2 hours of decanting.”
Steve Worley, Brand Ambassador at Soumah
Last time I penned a vintage note it was in response to some Northern hemisphere reporting on the effects of the January 2020 bushfires and the impact on the vintage. Some broad generalisations had been cast and many winemakers down here were alarmed that a very promising vintage might be written off unfairly. I think the last of our fruit was still crossing the weighbridge at this time. It is worth noting that aside from the fires that affected a few discrete locations, the season was a bit particular in its own right. It was about two weeks later than usual and putting aside a short period prior to Christmas when we had a week in the mid-40s, the season was relatively cool. This not only meant that bunches were still at their most resilient when any smoke was around, in January but resulted in an extended ripening period which turns an average vintage in the Yarra into an exceptional one.
Micro ferments and significant testing by the AWRI yielded no impact from smoke taint and the early signs that we had a batch of excellent wines developing, proved to be the case. Flavours are concentrated and at relatively low alcohol levels, while acid levels are terrific which translates to excellent balance. It’s still too early to tell how good, but confidence grows as the first bottled wines come through bottle shock, settle and start to display some lovely charm and elegance.
It’s a real testament to the vineyard site and the old adage that less is more. The actual vintage was beset with so many unknowns and restrictions that we were all forced to simplify the process. We had to ensure the fruit and wines were secured in barrel ASAP as lockdowns were possible at any time. Considering the environment at the time, the quality is really quite outstanding.
In contrast to 2020, I’m not sure I’ve ever approached a vintage with so much anticipation. After the year we have all had, getting back into the vineyard in Spring as the restrictions started to ease here, was a wonderful time of joy, optimism and appreciation for the simple things. Spring vineyard work is one of my favourite jobs, but this year feeling the sun on my back while strolling between the rows, amongst young shoots was extra sweet.
The winter of 2020 was the wettest to hit Southern Victoria in over 30 years. Due to Victoria’s hard lockdown at the time we were holed up in a small cabin on the South Gippsland coast. We were working, schooling and baking the obligatory sourdough from home whilst successive, southerly fronts rolled in from the Great Southern ocean throughout July, August and September. Water tables, aquifers and dams filled and overflowed and come spring we were primed to go. Isolated frosts affected a few areas in October. I personally lost about 30% of my Shiraz block and quickly reset and focussed even more attention on elevating the quality of what remained. As summer commenced, mild temperatures, coupled with the soil moisture drove huge growth. This came with its own set of challenges - weed control and general inter-row maintenance on our organically farmed sites keeping us very busy under vine cultivating and weeding like we’ve never done before in order to minimise disease risk
December and January continued to be relatively cool with above average rainfall and the ever present risk of downy and powdery mildew. Healthy vines, lots of canopy work and a rigorous natural spray regime kept disease in check.
Harvest was pushed later into March and drew to a close with a couple of lovely warm weeks in early April… though the Nebbiolo, of course, hung out a little longer. This will be a variety to watch from the vintage (though we’ll need to wait until at least 2024 before this season’s crop of Nebs start showing their real stripes!) Sugars and flavours developed steadily and acid retention was excellent. Growers accustomed to levels of 14 and above for their Syrah had to get their heads around ripe flavours at high 12s to mid 13s and we all started to get very excited about the quality we were seeing. As ripening continued, temperatures dropped, acid levels remained and flavours developed further. You may have heard the expression, “a winemakers vintage,” well 2021 really is. Accountants will be lamenting the loss in some areas, with 25-30% loss from frost but winemakers are salivating over excellent “numbers” and even more interesting flavours. Although we put more emphasis on flavour than numbers, analysis of our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Hexham site showed the best balance since we’ve been farming. We also have excellent flavours and ferments all behaving well. It is fair to say excitement levels are high and some are already predicting the best vintage of the millennium! Let’s see, there’s still plenty of work to do!
A big shout out to all the team at Vinorium and all your lovely customers. Can’t wait to get up to see you as soon as travel recommences to personally serve you some of these exciting wines.
"The most intense Pinot Noir of the trio. The dark fruit is lightly spiced and the most seductive of the trinity"
Soumah Equilibrio Pinot Noir 2019
97-98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “The most intense Pinot Noir of the trio. The dark fruit is lightly spiced and the most seductive of the trinity – sweet cherry and orange peel are unmistakable. The palate is incredibly fresh and juicy. I love the infusion of cranberry and redcurrant combined with the iron rich finish. Ripe and showing a more exotic side to Soumah’s winemaking. Lots of finesse and already showing bags of charm and character, but its glory years are yet to come. I am going to be harsh and award 97-98 points. It’s not there yet but I have no doubt it will be within 5-8 years”.
97+ Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Tasted 3 hours after decanting. Deeper and darker in colour, vibrant crimson. Sour cherry and spice jump to the forefront of the lavish perfume. The palate is incredibly vibrant and luscious, showing great detail and polish. The tannins are super-fine and they melt away as you experience a long and intensely fruity finish. This is a certainly the most exuberant Pinot Noir of the entire Soumah range however, it is also one to be enjoyed best mid-term – it needs time more than the others. Amazing potential to go up a notch."
97 Points - Stuart McCloskey “A blend of 44% Syrah, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and the curious addition of 23% Nebbiolo, which I originally thought would provide a less than exciting drinking experience. However, I was completely wide of the mark as it’s bloody marvellous and packed to the rafters with fresh, juicy fruit. I sampled the ’18 over two days and directly from the bottle – both occasions providing a fabulous experience. The nose reveals cassis, blackcurrant, dark plum, violet, blood orange and leather. The palate is complex, layered and follows the same synergy as the bouquet. The fruit is ripe and wrapped with lithe tannins. The acidity being judicious and the oak regime (10 months of which 25% is new) provides a fresh bite of structure. I love the suede-like texture; it’s so evocative and inviting. There’s intensity and abundant flavour without the slightest sign of heaviness or any notion of being a cumbersome hodgepodge. It’s surprisingly approachable now, and with a quick hour or two in the decanter will provide a thoroughly satisfying experience. Unquestionably, worth every penny. Drinking now to 2030. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
97+ Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Always a joyous surprise from the talented team at Soumah. The Butcher is a creative blend of Syrah (44%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%) and Nebbiolo (23%) giving a classic Aussie blend of the two primary varieties a brand new take. Syrah and Cabernet give a wonderful interplay of aromatics. The deep and evocative perfume is filled with ripe, dark berries, plums, sweet cassis and violets with a good dusting of clove and nutmeg. The aroma transformed when I returned to the wine the next day, revealing more well developed red fruit with a touch of blood orange and new leather. The palate is equally complex, which draws you in with a welcoming sweetness before revealing a full kaleidoscope of supple fruit, dried herbs and soft tannins which melt away on the impressively long finish. The structure is simply superb, with each variety clearly contributing to the overwhelming sense of awe. Incredibly juicy, harmonious, vibrant and pretty darn fine. Clever, modern-age winemaking. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware after one hour and later 24 hours of decanting."
Soumah Single Vineyard Wild Savagnin 2015
Winemaker "This is an ancient variety having been around since the first Millennium and is a parent of many of today’s modern grapes. We have been successful making our Savarro from this variety but wanted to see what a wine made from this ancient grape would have tasted like a thousand years ago. So we set forth to create a minimal intervention wine with 100% full solids, wild barrel fermentation. This natural process has developed a degree of untamed attitude. The wine still has the trademark citrus acidity but is fused with the brooding flavours of age old tradition."
£21.95 per bottle
Soumah Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
96++ Points - Stuart McCloskey “A wonderful nose following a morning in the decanter. Deep violets resonate in my glass along with a fresh herbal lift intermixed with ripe dark fruits, iron ore and sweet spice. The palate is sweet, expansive and impressive. Again, clean, ripe, juicy and brimming with damson, plum, blackberry, cedar and a lovely undercurrent of minerality. Incredibly satisfying with perfectly polished tannins – I love the freshness. A real triumph for the money. Decant for 2-3 hours and enjoy over the next decade.”
£19.95 per bottle
"This is cracking Pinot Noir which instantly puts a smile on your face. An absolute steal for the price"
Soumah Single Vineyard Upper Ngumby Pinot Noir 2018
96–97 Points - Stuart McCloskey “The nose is more classical – herbal, rusty metal, cranberry, warm earth, leather and tea. The flavour profile is expansive and impeccably pure. Less flamboyant compared to the Hexham but the open-knit complexity is a delight. Finely tuned with a delicacy and a gentleness which I really enjoy. I am intrigued to see how this develops over the coming 5 years. Ambitious yet sensitive winemaking. Unforced and natural. Admirable length and will offer immediate pleasure”.
97 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Intense aromas of ripe fruit, pomegranate, sweet spice and dried herbs emanate from the glass. I adore this perfume – an intoxicating mix of sweet and savoury. The palate is just as vibrant which is such a delight. Abundant fruit gives a nice touch of ripeness and sweetness laced with gentle acidity – all in perfect balance. So soft on the finish. Simply put, this is cracking Pinot Noir which instantly puts a smile on your face. An absolute steal for the price, as is the entire Single Vineyard range."
£19.95 per bottle
Soumah Single Vineyard Upper Ngumby
96+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “The Upper Ngumby vineyard is within the confines of Yarra Glen, sloping gently east. It is protected from the late afternoon sun by the Christmas Hills, rising up to the west. The fruit was barrel fermented with 100% wild yeast, matured on lees for eight months with some secondary fermentation to create depth and finesse, which team Soumah succeed effortlessly. The nose offers a mix of lemon zest, minéralité and ozone. Serenely pure in two words. The palate is long and sophisticated. Full of drive, vigour and energy – lovely freshness and very moreish. This will flourish with more time in the bottle, drink now to 2025.”
96+ Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Elegant struck match on the nose reveals white nectarine with aeration. Although it is slightly leaner than Hexham, there is still an incredible sense of precision here. The palate is textural bliss as it balances effortlessly between ripe stone fruit, citrus and minerals. Svelte and perfectly composed – a testament to Soumah’s great vineyards and skilful winemaking. Delicious today, but a little rest in the cellar will be rewarded."
£19.95 per bottle
Soumah Single Vineyard Hexham Chardonnay 2018
97 Points - Stuart McCloskey “I love the nose with its steely freshness – racy and cool climate, sweetened with a whiff of poached pears. The palate is much fuller than the Upper Ngumby and will appeal (enormously so) to those seeking a richer style. There’s a lovely combination of depth and mouth-watering freshness. The fruit is evidently sweeter and fills the mid-palate gloriously. Stony minerality keeps the wine in perfect check. This is a chardonnay on full parade, just bumptious and proud to be. A touch of salinity on the super long finish. Bloody brilliant – it’s as simple as that. Drink now to 2025.”
97 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "So elegant yet full of energy. The perfume is simply beautiful with poached pears, citrus and crystalline minerals. Generosity describes this wine perfectly, as the palate offers breadth and magnitude without an overpowering element. Rich flavours flow in perfect balance with sweet fruit, zesty citrus, salty minerals, creamy nuttiness and an appetising savoury finish, which is super long. This will put a smile on many faces as this is one of those utterly brilliant Chardonnays which won’t require a bank loan. Clearly, the ’18 Hexham has great potential to evolve, but it is an absolute delight today."
£19.95 per bottle
"It will suit everyone looking for a seamless, textural Chardonnay with balance above all. Such an exciting wine."
Soumah d'Soumah Chardonnay 2019
95 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Sampled without decanting. D’Soumah Chardonnay is a blend of fruit sourced from their own sites and select cool-climate, mature vineyards in the Yarra Valley. The front label confidently boasts that this is “ new age, citrus crisp Chardonnay with texture and finesse.” Well, I couldn’t agree more. The nose offers complexity beyond its price point with the palate following a similar line. It will suit everyone looking for a seamless, textural Chardonnay with balance above all. Such an exciting wine, comparable to the thrill of looking through a telescope and seeing a new star beginning to form itself."
£15.95 per bottle